Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stupid, stupid, stupid!!!!

I have chuckled to myself about these things for years and I’ve always put it down to something that we can all laugh about.

Now I am getting a bit irritated about these things. What is really getting me at the moment is the absolute stupidity – I can’t think of a kind word – of some design ideas.

How the hell can the people who invent/design these things take any pride whatsoever in their job. Or maybe it’s just me and I should perhaps just get out more.

These things may appear petty and nit-picking but to me they are important. They illustrate why I never simply accept the concept of ‘expert’ in design or innovation. No person with one iota of common sense would introduce these things.

Here are just a few of the things I’ve noticed that drive me mad! You will have other examples and I’m sure you will let me know:

1 Toilet roll holders positioned in public toilets (on trains and in hotels in particular) in places that require the person sitting on the seat to be a contortionist to reach the toilet roll. Then when you do finally reach the toilet tissue the roll doesn’t ‘roll’ and you end up with the tissue breaking off at every perforation!

2 Those vacuum sealed clear plastic surrounds on electrical goods like memory sticks that are simply impossible to open without getting a knife or a pair of scissors and literally hacking your way through to the product. We risk amputations of fingers just to get to our precious appliance.

3 Tomato ketchup plastic sachets that simply refuse to tear despite your best effort - even with your teeth! – I mean who carries pair of scissors or a knife into a motorway service station when all you want is a burger with ketchup!

4 Milk cartons that require a corner to be cut off to enable pouring and doing it results in spillage every single time you cut the corner.

5 'Post it' note sealed packs that are simply impossible to get open (and that includes attempting to tear the thin covering with your teeth) without scissors or a knife.

We can and should laugh at these things but on the other hand I think there is a serious issue here. This stuff is so simple and yet it doesn't get any better. Why in hells name don't the designers try these things out before they are applied in practice?

Front line employees would never do anything so stupid.

For instance – it’s surely possible for someone to sit on a toilet seat and - without having the IQ of Albert Einstein - work out where might be difficult for people to reach the tissue!!

Surely the person who designed those vacuum sealed packs tried them out with a small group of guinea pigs before the product is mass produced – CLEARLY NOT!!

Maybe I am missing something obvious but if so I just cant see it ….


Anonymous said...

An awesome pair of kitchen sissors helps with the plastic and the milk. I waited to long to buy one, and now we use it all the time.

But otherwise I agree with all these complaints!

Trevor Gay said...

Thanks anonymous - I clearly will need to buy some scissors and carry them everywhere I go ... thanks for the tip. You've convinced me! Hope I am allowed to go through customs etc carrying my scissors :-)

Mark JF said...

Welcome to a new Grumpy Old Trevor Blogspot...

1) You're a bloke and, as far as I know, not disabled. Use the Gents in future.

2) Any less packaging = a huge uplift in pilferage and therefore a huge uplift in retailer costs and therefore retail prices. So learn how to use a pair of scissors. They're a pretty basic motor skill and most primary school teachers could show you how to operate them.

3) You're 50 years old, for Pete's sake!!! You should have a) at least graduated to brown sauce; or preferably b) weaned yourself off such disgusting condiments. And if you need to smother the burger in sauce anyway, you clearly don't like the meat so should become a vegetarian. Unbreachable packaging is a message...

4) See 2) above.

5) The clue is in the expression "sealed pack." People who don't bite their nails or drag their fingers along the ground find tear strips perfectly adequate. If these basic qualifications exclude you, see 2) above. Actually, I wonder what you'll use them for... it couldn't be anything as advanced as writing on!

Aaah, a nice diversion in the middle of a hectic day. Back to the fray...

Trevor Gay said...

Wonderful comments Mark – glad it brightened your day. Always pleased to be of service.

You have to sit down sometimes in the gents too don’t you? :-)

Retail prices, uplifts, prices ….. But whatever happened to trying to please your customer?

Come on Mark - You just can’t beat Tomato Ketchup - regardless of your age!

Tear strips are great if you can find the damn things!

Marilyn Jess said...

Hi Trevor,

While your examples are exasperating, they are also examples of poor design. Chapter four of Daniel Pink's book, A Whole New Mind, talks about design, and how important it is to the success of a product.

Once I read this, I made it a point of noticing good design versus poor design. Helpful in my own thinking, reasoning, and communication, too. Have you sent comments to the 'offending' companies, via their websites?

With the aging population, you'd think someone(s) would come up with better packaging ideas, there's certainly a big market for it. Some inventors have actually come up with handy devices to open resistant packages. Check those out!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Marilyn – great points as always thanks.

These few examples – and many others – are veeeerrrrryyyyy frustrating and my main point is how the heck these things ever get through from prototype to market place … and even more crazy …. How the heck we customers buy them. I often email companies with comments on all sorts of issues like this – sad to report I often get no response at all which tells me all I need to know about such companies.

The problem of opening some of the packaging is not restricted to older people either – it is enough to drive a healthy, fit, fully dexterous, alert teenager round the bend getting some of this stuff open.

JOHN O'LEARY said...

Thanks, Trevor. I guess I'm not as inept as I thought. (Or at least I have company.) I've done physical damage to myself opening up those vacuum sealed plastic packages. I have even donned gloves before I pick up the scissors! (But it's not just vacuum sealed products. I bought a roll of Scotch masking tape last week and spent almost 15 minutes getting the sticky thin wrapping off -- ending my relationship with Scotch.) Where are the "usability" geniuses when it comes to product packaging? And you didn't even mention the marvel of CD packaging.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi John - I’m glad I’m not the only one and yes – how could I forget CD packaging!

On a serious note it never ceases to surprise me how companies take cheap short cuts that switch customers off completely – they obviously couldn’t care less about their customers – your example of Scotch shows what happens. Go figure.

Trevor Gay said...

Welcome Yousuf – I hope you enjoy Simplicity Blog - there are many people who comment here that you can learn from – just as I do every day!

Annie G said...

Things I find hugely irritating are some taps at public washbasins. You press one and as soon as you take your hand off to put it under the tap, the flow stops. You have to hold one tap down and attempt to wash one hand at a time. A third hand is need to use the soap.

I'm also intrigued by some signs that say "Caution! Very Hot Water!" Well, armed with this knowledge why can't someone turn the thermostat down?

J.KANNAN said...


A very good topic for discussion and I would describe it as merely a “total & bloody stupid”

While we all laugh about together, shouldn’t forget to “Laugh at” the so called designers and manufacturers of consumer goods (FMCG) placing orders with such mediocre designers designing sub-standard quality of pouches,carton, covers and other packing utilities.

These are not petty things from the point of view of consumers/customers………………but consumers by and large “Take things for Granted” as the have their time to be utilised for better yielding purposes.

1.In my country in selected air-conditioned compartments in the train, one can find the toilet roll holder not well positioned without toilet rolls??. I used to wonder how and why this continues to happen?

2.In fact ordinary Pair of scissors will not work to open the sachets and packs as one may need platinum edged pair of scissors-That hard and bad is the quality of plastics being used for making sachets and pouches. From these kinds of difficulties being faced by the end users, it is evident that designers of the packs utilities don’t use their upper house (brain), innovation and creativity in developing and designing right quality of material in the manufacturing process of packing devices. The perforation on the packs are simply horrible and does not work well while trying to open and when one applies little extra pressure to open the perforation it spills and falls on the dress and boy to make it a messy affair.

3.You are absolutely right. While using the teeth to open the sachet, the teeth, and lips and even at times tongue gets hurt as if one fight with the sachets and packs instead of opening it resulting in ketchup decorates your dress instead of making it palatable to go with the burger. I think the makers of the burgers should device a method to add ketchup in the burger with out burger getting soggy but remain crisp and soft. Of course this needs innovation, creativity apart from having common sense, keeping in mind the consumers interest by burger makers.

4. In fact manufacturers should take into consideration to Pack25 ml 100 ml of ketch up extra in the sachets keeping in mind the spillage and inconvenience by the consumers.

5. Regarding the toilet tissue, it has been a big issue of tissue for the users. The people (for a change I would like to them to be addressed as buffoons) who plans the placement of toilet tissue rolls in the compartment should be innovative and intelligent enough to place it in hand reachable and comfortable place of the toilet rather than making a person to get up for tissues(really a funny situation) just imagine…………………

Packing quality, standards of sachets, packs cartons etc calls for mediate attention towards precision perfection and not to be viewed as “Just for the sake of it” and my advice to the designers and manufacturers would be………………………………..

“Make excellence and quality a habit and not an act.”


Trevor Gay said...

Brilliant and funny words JK.

I love the expression “upper house” – I’ve not heard that before. Decorating my clothes with ketchup is something I’ve done many times!

I now have a vivid image in my head of the person you describe getting up from the toilet seat to reach the tissue not a glamorous or beautiful sight methinks!

“Make excellence and quality a habit and not an act.” – This excellent advice JK!